It’s about eleven months since a CIPR independent practitioner roundtable galvanised me into action on behalf of solo, or isolated, UK PR practitioners. Since then we’ve updated the CIPR’s freelance guide, done a podcast, started a CIPR Independent Practitioners group on Linkedin, surveyed the state of solo PR, and held a very lively tweetchat. These and other efforts continue….
Pints and Pinots all round!
Inspired by the CIPR Wessex Group’s PR and a Pint networking group for independent PR practitioners, and by the #CIPRchat that we did earlier this year (post), other regional groups are starting to get organised with respect to their local solo PRs.
- On behalf of the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Group, Helen Kitchen (Helen Kitchen PR) selected (in my opinion) one of Leeds’ best city centre pubs, the Brewery Tap, to bring a handful of independent practitioners together on 11 June.
- If you are an independent PR practitioner in Scotland, you might be interested in hopefully the first of a series of events for ‘solo’ PR practitioners north of Hadrian’s Wall. The event on the evening of Thursday 10 September is organised by Laura Sutherland (Aura PR) and supported by CIPR Scotland, and is taking place at the Bath Street Palomino in Glasgow. It will be an opportunity to bounce ideas off other like-minded PR practitioners, and also to set an agenda for future events. More details at Pint/Pinot and PR.
- As I can’t get to Scotland, I am planning to attempt another London PR and a Pint meetup – also on 10 September. Venue to be decided, but will be somewhere central. If you want to help out with this, suggest a venue, or just be notified when we identify which pub, let me know.*
- And if you are organising or know of any other UK #soloPR events, please let me know.*
Outside of the CIPR, the PRCA has also formed an independent consultants group. I was approached to help with this by Georgina ‘George’ Blizzard of the PR Network, one of the two co-chairmen. Workload and other commitments meant I had to decline, but we still met for a coffee and a discussion of all things solo, and I was invited to the the group’s 8 July launch event (which, unfortunately, got cancelled as it was scheduled for the day of a London tube strike).
Small businesses under attack!
What could we talk about at a #soloPR event? Well, you could do worse than consider some of the implications of recent Budget proposals by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. According to IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and Self-Employed, solo professionals – particularly if they have established themselves as limited companies – could be penalised under new HMRC proposals:
HMRC dealt not one, not two, but three blows to the UK’s smallest businesses yesterday. In all cases we believe the blows are below the belt!
- First, arcane rules known as IR35 are ominously to be made ‘more effective’. These rules try and almost always fail to separate disguised employees from genuine businesses.
- Second, new restrictions on travel and subsistence expenses are to be imposed on one-person limited companies.
- Third, there is a significant tax hike on dividends – a change that will affect all company directors, not just independent professionals.
In February, the CIPR’s first Election Manifesto made particular mention of the training needs of independent practitioners and other small businesses (post); I am hoping it will now start to lobby on behalf of its #SoloPR and SME members with respect to these changes.
What to charge?
Another subject ripe for discussion is what independent practitioners might charge for PR services. Bodies such as the CIPR and the PRCA are not allowed to provide recommended, or even “indicative”, fee scales or pricing structures (the Competition and Markets Authority, CMA, implements the EU Competitions Directive seeking to prevent professional bodies becoming ‘cartels’ operating only in the interests of their members). However, that doesn’t stop us thinking about how we charge. I am considering a questionnaire survey scoping out the criteria used for setting rates and strategies used by different independent PR practitioners to negotiate rates. Again, if you’d like to help with this, let me know.*